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Ward, Donald B., 1919-1994



  • Existence: 1919 - 1994


Donald Butler Ward, Jr. D.D., LL.D., was born on June 15, 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts. When Ward was four years old, his family relocated to Chicago. At a young age, Ward became fascinated with performance and magic, passions that would remain with him throughout his life. In 1937, following what had become a family tradition, Ward enrolled at Yankton College in South Dakota, a school founded by his grandfather, Joseph Ward. At Yankton, he first developed a strong interest in radio broadcasting. However, Ward broke family tradition and transferred, after two years at Yankton College, to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. At Northwestern, Ward joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity and studied radio production. He graduated from Northwestern in 1942. Due to his medical history, Ward was exempt from military service during World War II, and instead used his talents to entertain GIs as host of ABC Radio’s Coca Cola Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands. His career in radio included appearances on Ladies Be Seated, Junior Junction, The Benny Rubin Show, The Johnny Desmond Show, and The Breakfast Club. Ward later hosted his own television show, with wife Vera Bantz Ward, entitled Comic Capers, in which the couple performed puppet shows, comic readings, and magic tricks. Comic Capers ran for 104 weeks on Chicago’s WBKB Channel 4.

After a brief period of freelance work after Comic Capers and Breezy, Don, and Vera ended, Ward left the world of radio and television at the age of thirty-seven to accept a call to Christian ministry. He enrolled in the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1957 and graduated in 1959 with a Master of Divinity degree. During his time in school, Ward received his first weekly preaching job at the Faith Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Ward was ordained at Chicago’s Ravenswood Congregational Church, the successor to the minister Dr. Morriston John Thomas. He later served at the Kirk of Bonnie Brae in Denver, Colorado, in 1960. In 1962, Ward accepted the presidency of Yankton College in South Dakota, the school he once attended. He served as president of Yankton for eight years before returning to parish ministry at the First Congregational Church of Evanston, Illinois. Shortly afterward, Ward became the Vice President for Development and Public Affairs of Alaska Pacific University (formerly Alaska Methodist University) in Anchorage, at the request of his friend Glenn Olds, who believed that Ward’s experience as a minister and as president at Yankton College made him a good fit for the position. In 1980, Ward relocated again to become senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. He retired from that pastorate in 1986 and was named Minister Emeritus. In retirement, Ward continued serving his ministry with brief appointments at churches in Pomona, California; Evanston, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; and Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Beyond his work in radio, television, and ministry, Ward served as an accomplished public speaker and author, penning religious writings such as a section in the published book Great Preaching. Additionally, Ward was the recipient of several honorary degrees and commendations, including a Doctor of Laws from Morningside College, in 1963, and Doctor of Divinity degrees in 1964, from Lakeland College, and 1981, from Yankton College. In 1994, while in hospice care, Ward penned his memoir, entitled “7-M Man,” with the help of his daughter Mari Ward McCarty. Donald Ward died September 27, 1994, in Palm Desert, California after a long battle with cancer.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Donald (1919-1994) and Vera (1922-2014) Ward Papers

Identifier: 31/6/125
Abstract Donald and Vera Ward were married graduates of Northwestern University with influential careers in the middle of the 20th century in Chicago-based radio, television, theatre, and the ministry. Donald’s successful and varied career spanned radio and television, Christian ministry, and higher education. Although her husband left the world of performing arts to become a Congregational pastor in 1959, the stage and screen remained Vera’s life’s work: she appeared in several acclaimed plays and...
Dates: 1919-2014